NASCAR officials will review multiple issues after ‘rough night’ at Richmond (video)

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Calling it a “rough night’’ Saturday for NASCAR officials in the control tower at Richmond Raceway, Steve O’Donnell said the sanctioning body would review how it handled multiple cautions to avoid repeating such mistakes in the playoffs.

O’Donnell, executive vice president and chief racing development officer for NASCAR, made his comments Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

O’Donnell called the second caution in Saturday’s Cup race — the cause officially listed as smoke after Matt Kenseth braked hard — “a quick trigger, it was a mistake.’’

O’Donnell said the ambulance that parked at the commitment line to pit road was told as early as the backstretch to stop and didn’t heed multiple orders to do so

O’Donnell said he has been in touch with Martin Truex Jr., who was upset about the final caution that sent the race into overtime. Truex was on his way to winning before the caution and crashed in overtime. “He’s obviously upset, and I think that’s fair.’’

O’Donnell said series officials would examine each incident.

The issue with the ambulance could have impacted who made the playoffs. Kenseth ran into the back of Clint Bowyer‘s car as drivers slowed with the ambulance blocking a lane to pit road. Had a driver not yet in the playoffs won Richmond to qualify, they would have knocked Kenseth out of the postseason.

“We had a rough night ourselves in race control and that certainly put a damper on the night for us, and I think, luckily, we were able to see the same 16 guys on the Monster Energy Series make it through, but tough night for the guys up in race control,’’ O’Donnell said. “I think if you’re a race team you talk about wanting to put that behind you and move on to Chicago, and we’re certainly going to meet and make sure we put our best effort forward heading into Chicago.’’

O’Donnell was asked why the ambulance was dispatched for an incident between Austin Dillon and Danica Patrick even though both cars continued.

“Anytime there is an incident and a vehicle stops, we’ll dispatch our chase vehicle, an ambulance and usually a tow truck,’’ O’Donnell said. “In this case, all three of those are dispatched and then if a vehicle ends up rolling off, there’s communication to each one of those individually.

“I think in this case, I want to say the safety truck was a little ahead of the field, and so we asked them to kind of stand on the gas, get ahead of the field. We asked the tow truck and ambulance to stop and that probably would have been about midway through the backstretch. Tow truck did.

“Unfortunately, there were multiple communications with the ambulance and it just didn’t happen. It stopped at a really bad place. Ultimately, that is on us. We have a lot of folks who work hard at the race track, but we’ve got to do a better job of communicating. If we go back and look at it, could we have thrown the red light on the pits (to close pit road) or would that even have been worse with cars coming down, that’s something we’ve got to look at.’’

O’Donnell said officials will work to ensure that they’re not as big a factor in the next 10 weeks when championships will be decided in NASCAR’s top three national series.

“We don’t want to be a part of the story, as we’ve always said and I said Saturday before the drivers meeting,’’ O’Donnell said. “We’ve got a great group of drivers out there battling hard and got a great group in the playoffs, and we want it to be about those guys.’’

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Truck practice report at Atlanta

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Justin Haley was the fastest in the first of two practices Friday for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He had a top lap of 178.029 mph.

Daytona winner Johnny Sauter was second with a lap of 177.040 mph. He was followed by Myatt Snider (177.040 mph), Stewart Friesen (176.995) and Noah Gragson (176.589).

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Truck practice will be from 4:05 – 4:50 p.m. ET.

Click here for Truck 1 practice

Police investigating vandalism, theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway

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The Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of vandalism and theft at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the track, which last hosted a NASCAR Cup race in 1996, suffered damage of about $10,000 when several trespassers were on the grounds last weekend. No arrests have been made.

The report states that several windows were broken and other damage was done to the structures. Also, large amounts of electrical wire and circuit breakers were reported missing.

The investigation continues.

North Wilkesboro Speedway hosted NASCAR Cup races from 1949-96. Winners included Fireball Roberts, Buck Baker, Junior Johnson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon, who won the final race there.

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Others’ predictions motivating Austin Dillon after Daytona 500 win: ‘I guess they don’t believe it yet’

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Fresh off the greatest victory of his NASCAR career, Austin Dillon already has motivation to win the next.

The Richard Childress Racing driver heard others predict this week that the Daytona 500 would be his only victory this season.

“I think on Race Hub, Brad (Keselowski) and Chad (Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson) saying that we weren’t going to win again,” Dillon said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “So, that was good to hear. That was something to get me fired up a little bit more and our team, get those competitive juices flowing again. So, we will just keep rocking it however we can. We still have a lot to work on.”

Prior to Daytona, Dillon’s lone win in four seasons as a full-time Cup driver came in the 2017 Coca-Cola 600. His No. 3 Chevrolet qualified for the playoffs the past two seasons, but his top 10s (13 to four) and average finish (15.9 to 18.6) slipped demonstrably from 2016 to ’17.

“So yesterday in my group text with my buddies they watched Chad Knaus and Brad Keselowski, and it was like, ‘All right, it’s time to keep knocking them down, I guess they don’t believe it yet,’” Dillon said. “We’ve got to step up though at RCR. We’ve still got a lot to prove. It’s a speedway race, even though it’s the biggest race in our deal, it’s a speedway race.  We’ve got a lot more to prove.

“(Competition executive) Andy Petree and all the guys are RCR are working hard. I think coming down to a two-car team move is big for us. We’ve got to take advantage of that. I’m not going to lie, I’m tired right now, but we are going to kick butt this weekend and get back regrouped and get in the groove and try and gain as many bonus points as we can.”

But qualifying for the playoffs by winning the season opener should be a morale booster that avoids any letdown.

“The one thing they don’t have right now that we have is a win,” Dillon said. “So, we are on top right now, and no matter what they can’t take that away, and we are going to keep working.  I don’t expect us to lay down at all. I feel like now more than ever we need to go head on and go after it.”

Xfinity practice report from Atlanta

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Christopher Bell posted the fastest lap in the first of two Xfinity practice sessions Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bell posted a lap of 178.447 mph. He was followed by Joey Logano (177.323 mph), Cole Custer (175.933), Ryan Reed (175.688) and Kevin Harvick (175.487). Daytona winner Tyler Reddick (175.388) was sixth on the speed chart.

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Xfinity practice will be from 3:05 – 3:55 p.m. ET

Click here for practice 1 report